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At scale: doing business in the cloud

Following something of a ‘slow but steady’ migration of its business applications into the cloud, Tait communications received something of a jolt with the canterbury earthquakes which confirmed the advantages of the model.

With much of the process complete before the quakes struck, the impact of the seismic activity on its business was minimised – and as a consequence, it has strengthened its resolve to execute its cloud migration strategy.

With over 900 staff worldwide, operating with partners in more than 150 countries, this christchurch-headquartered organisation has, since 1969, lead the way in radio communications technology.

It is a an example of how New Zealand can design, manufacture and export world-leading solutions for public safety organisations and utilities.

Global customers include the country Fire Authority, Victoria, london Buses and São paulo State police in Brazil.

ERP: consolidated in the cloud

Tait’s migration to a cloud model started with its business-critical ERP system, Baan.

From a situation where 13 locations were operating separate ERP systems, many with local modifications, the business was challenged to provide coordinated order processing and stock movement services between worldwide locations and partners.

Over a period of 18 months, Tait migrated to a single system for all worldwide operations.

This provided simplified management and real-time visibility of the status of orders, stock and the whole supply chain, for a product range in constant development.

A consolidated system also simplified integrated email alerts from the ERP system, triggering timely actions for service fulfilment.

This significantly reduced cost, especially for software licenses, made supply chain operations more efficient and allowed the internet to be used as the global network for all communications.

WAn Acceleration technology was deployed to improve performance; this was especially important for northern Hemisphere users –initial performance feedback clearly indicated the advantages of this technology.

The success of the private cloud migration for the ERP system clearly identified a path to consider for other applications.

CRM next in line

CRM was the next challenge which awaited Tait. With three different systems operating across the world as a result of historically made regional decisions, the company sought to consolidate into a single one.

It considered three solution options, ultimately selecting’s SaaS (Software as a Service) solution; the decision was made, in part, as other vendors did not have SaaS solutions at that time.

As part of the transfer, data was exported from existing systems and imported into SalesForce.

The data migration, and the training required for new users, were challenging for Tait.

The SalesForce online training proved valuable and the whole process was successfully completed within the planned timeframe.

All data is backed up to Tait in NZ on a regular basis. Tait is now working at standardising processes around the single CRM and is about to go live with SalesForce Service cloud for its worldwide service team.

Email, calendaring and Time management

Next, Tait looked into a global SaaS cloud solution for email and calendaring.

This is especially important to the company; the system would need to align with its 24x7 global operations, provide links to the ERP system and include careful scheduling across time zones.

Google’s gmail and calendar were chosen to replace the many different systems and domains previously used around the world with a single solution. The whole 900-user organisation was able to migrate in a period of two weeks to one worldwide domain.

As multiple email clients were already in place, Tait deployed the google solution while allowing users to personally choose the email client they were happiest with.

Most users selected the gmail client (70%), while some chose Outlook (30%).

It was now time to consider another application for cloud delivery: Time Management.

As in the previous migrations, there were multiple systems in use around the global offices. With all its projects, Tait takes care to execute across many time zones and has a clear understanding of the effective utilisation of project resources.

Time Filer was chosen to fulfil this requirement. With an Internet connection, all users worldwide are now able to securely update their project time sheets.

As the application is a SaaS offering, all updates and maintenance are automatically managed; in terms of deployment, Tait had some specific requirements for which Time Filer was configured.

Finally, the website

The next application the company looked to tackle was its global website.

Tait opted for a paaS (platform as a Service) approach, hosted by Rackspace, based out of the uSA. A backup copy of the site is kept in nZ.

Since these cloud migrations, Tait has opened two new international offices.

With all the key business applications being cloud- based, the company reports that extending business systems is a relatively painless exercise, as all that was required at the new locations was an Internet connection, for full access to their global applications.